by Wendy Iraheta
San Francisco Book Review
January 04, 2012
Featuring Terry Bisson’s candid interview with Doctorow about plotting a story and how the website Boing Boing is better than a writer’s notebook, his “Creativity vs. Copyright” talk on digital rights management at the World Science Fiction Convention in 2010, and the title novella, this collection offers readers an essential introduction to Doctorow’s work. Jimmy Yensid is a transhuman adolescent engineered to age at an unusually slow pace. Forced to leave his father and hometown of Detroit after a full scale attack by the monstrous creatures called wumpuses, Jimmy goes east and joins a community of wireheads.
In a scant one hundred pages, Doctorow infuses our imagination with engaging characters, a tightly woven narrative, and carefully woven themes of isolation, family, and genetic engineering into Jimmy’s journey through the American wasteland. Doctorow eloquently marks the differences between change and progress as one of Jimmy’s preoccupations. When comparing his immortality to his father’s Jimmy says, “With me, it was all about the germ plasm . . . a native of the transhuman condition. And no one knew what that meant, really. Including me.” Doctorow’s prose is precise and perceptive. His vision of the future, although gritty, is an entertaining and thought provoking reflection of our present.